Car crash injuries and 16-year hiatus don't thwart lawyer's return to law practice

Cleveland Turner, 74, got his law license back this month after a 16-year hiatus brought on by a car crash and its aftermath.

Turner, of Clarksville, Tenn., says he studied law for three years before his reinstatement on Jan. 14, the Leaf Chronicle reports. “I’m going to start slow,” he told the newspaper. “I know a lot of law has changed. I’ve had to relearn all the law I didn’t like.”

When Turner formed his own law firm in 1968, he had only one case. He told every lawyer he knew that he was available to take the cases they didn’t want, and told the local judges he was available for appointments. “I specialized with helping anyone with $100 in their pocket,” he tells the Leaf Chronicle.

A car crash in the 1990s changed Turner’s life. He suffered a serious head injury and seizures that caused memory problems. “I continued cases and made excuses,” he said. “When I went back to court, I had a hard time remembering my client’s name.” Turner took a medical retirement and surrendered his law license. He turned his practice over to his daughter and a close family friend.

The loss of his work caused depression, and Turner turned to alcohol, he told the newspaper. He went to treatment centers and began attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He has not had a drink in five years.

Now he is back working at his daughter’s law firm. He has three cases. “I want to handle some cases but not like I used to,” he says. “I want to pick what I handle, not for the money, but for the experience of something I want to do. I want to have my practice so I can dot every i and cross every t.”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.